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Henry Clay was renowned for his mesmerizing mannerisms in the Senate. Artists frequently portrayed Clay in the pose of a distinguished orator. The twisting torso, artfully placed foot, and arm gesture in Henry Clay in the U.S. Senate are direct references to classical imagery of Roman statesmen. This lofty posture makes Clay appear to gaze beyond the viewer and give him the noble air of a visionary statesman.

Clay's speaking style was, by all accounts, profoundly captivating. He made full use of an orator's arsenal of sophisticated gestures and movements. As one contemporary, John Wentworth, observed:

"Thus, Clay must suffer with posterity incapable of hearing the varied intonations of his ever-pleasing voice, or of seeing his gesticulations, his rising upon his toes, his stamp of the foot, his march down the aisles until his long fingers would almost touch the president’s desk, and his backward tread to his seat, all the while speaking; his shake of the head, his dangling hair, and his audience in the galleries rising and leaning over as if to catch every syllable." Full Quote »